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Festival Activities

Balboa Park December Nights, San Diego’s favorite kick-off to the holiday season, will celebrate 38 years of bringing friends, families and the community together on Friday, December 4, from 3-11 p.m. and Saturday, December 5, Noon-11 p.m.

  • Get information about food, music, and more December Nights from our friendly volunteers.

    As assortment of light-up accessories and holiday gifts are available in the Visitor's Center gift shop, along with Balboa Park-themed gifts, sundry items, snacks and drinks. 

  • Member-created holiday crafts for sale along with information about the Blind Community Center at the booth on El Prado. Carolers accompanied by guitar perform secular and traditional music every hour from 5-11pm

  • Hosted by Gator by the Bay and San Diego Bon Temps Social Club of San Diego featuring Cajun, Zydeco and Blues music and dance in Balboa Park. 

  • Gorgeous annual display of Poinsettias fill the Botanical Building.
    The Botanical Building will be open during daytime hours of Balboa Park December Nights, but will not be open during the evening. 

  • Presented by SWEA: Get a taste of Sweden on the California Quadrangle near the Museum of Man. 

    Traditional Santa Lucia Procession both nights at 6:30 and 7:45pm. Enjoy a 9pm live performance of traditional Christmas music, and on Saturday at 5:30pm see a parade of Swedish costumes. 
    Enjoy a Swedish market place with Swedish crafts, candy, and chocolate. 

    Tasty treats include Swedish meatballs, pea soup, home baked Swedish cookies, bread and Christmas cakes. Also served will be the traditional Swedish Christmas drink, Glögg 

  • Dec 4th-Aritsinal Mexican Holiday Gifts

    Dec 5th-Sugar Winter Workshop, 3D Snowman (evening), Artisanal Holiday Mexican Gifts

  • Performances of the classic "We Need a Little Christmas" Rockette-style, along with other favorites in the Patio of Casa del Prado. 
    Performing hourly both evenings from 5:15-9:15pm, while a host of other dancers representing the City of San Diego Park & Recreation Department perform on Saturday at 12, 2, & 3pm

    Enjoy tomato basil pasta, cookie decorating, and photos with Santa and his elves

  • A non-profit organization that supports the upkeep and display of the Nativity scenes in the Organ Pavilion, and Santa and the reindeer. 
    The Nativity is open from November 28 through January 1. 

    Photos with Santa 12/4 & 12/5. 5-7:30 adjacent to the Gingerbread House. 

  • Dahlia Society & Boy Scout troup booth on El Prado selling a variety of snacks, beverages, and light-up items. 

  • International Christmas Festival. Food, music, and dance.

  • Free performances of "A Christmas Carol"
    Half hour performances at 6, 7, 8pm
    This beloved holiday story is told with animal puppets both life-size and hand pupet size. A holiday tradition that is funny and sweet

    For sale at the gift shop: Christmas puppets and a wide assortment of hand and marionette puppets. 

  • Closed during the day, Friday Dec 4. and Saturday Dec. 5. Open 5-9pm

    Explore two major exhibitions: "Made in America - Craft Icons of 50 States" and "Carved and Whittled Sculpture - American Folk Art Walking Sticks from the Hill Collection". Also on display during December Nights are prize winning gingerbread constructions from San Diego Epilepsy Foundation's "Gingerbread City"

  • Closed during the day. Free from 5-9pm both evenings. 

    Enjoy four exhibitions currently on display: The Time Between: The Sequences of Minor White; Self/Reflection: 10th Annual Juried Youth Exhibition; Seeing is Believing?; Dream City: The 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

    Create a frame-worthy shot with MOPA's photo booth, well stocked with holiday props. Visit the MOPA shop for unique gifts for shutterbugs. On Friday only, MOPA Members may enjoy a special Welcome Lodge complete with snacks, warm beverages, and a holiday-themed activity. 

  •  Brunch, lunch, and dinner offered, plus a full bar with over 18 local taps of craft beer. 

  • Inspire the innovator in you at the Fleet's newest exhibit, Imaginate. Immerse yourself in a film in the Giant Dome Theater, ($9.95 for first show and $7 for second) or let the kids bring home a momento of December Nights in the Make & Take project center. 

    Pictures with Santa, 6-8:30pm each evening. 

    Free gift wrapping for purchases made in the North Star Store. 

  • Open free both Saturday & Sunday 3:30-10:00pm

    Kick off the holiday season at the Air & Space Museum while enjoying the Beverage Garden & live performances by the singing sensations "Frost Bite". 
    Have a family photo taken with Santa Claus, and sip on hot cocoa while strolling museum galleries. Stay warm and dine on yummy eats provided by the Flight Path Grill in the heated Pavilion of Flight.
    Explore all of the innovation motion simulators and 4D theater. Holiday gifts at the museum gift shop. Free arts and crafts for kids. 

  • Value Scale: SDAI Affordable Art Fair with works for sale in the galleries.

    Pick up some fresh roasted chestnuts!

  • Closed during the day 12/4 & 12/5. Open from 5-9pm

    Explore what the driving experience will be at the special exhibit "The Future". 
    Santa will be available for photos in a vintage car from 5-9pm. $2 donation suggested. 
    Performances on 12/4 by San Diego Harmony Ringers Handbells at 5:00, 6:15 & 7:15pm

  • San Diego's premier all-woman barbershop-style chorus will have a booth on El Prado outside of Casa del Prado. For sale will be baked potatoes, hot dogs, chili, nachos, baked goods, and a variety of beverages. 

  • Excerpts of The Nutcracker.

    Take an extraordinary journey to the magical Land of Sweets with Clara and her Nutcracker Prince. Witness the epic battle between toy soldiers and mice before being whisked away to an enchanted land of falling snow, waltzing flowers, and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Set to the timeless music of Tchaikovsky, this annual holiday production will become a cherished family tradition.

    Casa del Prado Theater – Dec. 4-5th, 6:00pm, 7:00pm, & 8:00pm

  • A display of 30 evergreen trees, and 10 artistic floral arrangements celebraing eras or events since the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Includes a display of holiday trees with a miniature holiday railway provided by Walter Andersen Nursery. 
    Casa del Prado Room 101

    Protea flower sale. 

  • Sports history

  • The San Diego History Center features four exhibitions: San Diego Invites the World, Masterworks: The Art of the Exposition Era, Place of Promise: The Story of San Diego, and The Border: A Line That Divides.
    Experience the entertaining documentary Balboa Park: The Jewel of San Diego screening on the hour from 5-8pm. 
    Discover a selection of vintage, exhibition-themed, and locally-sourced gifts from the History Store.

    "The Grinch" book readings throughout each night. from 5-9.
    12/4: Ferril Gardner, actress and teacher
    12/5: M.G. Perez, producer, director, actor and teacher
    Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss will not be open during free hours of December Nights.  

  • JT on Tour sings holiday songs from 6-11pm on the Junior Theatre outdoor stage. 

    Food and hot and cold beverages available. 

  • Friday Dec 4, closed during the day, open 5-9pm
    Saturday, Dec. 5, Open all day

    Take an extraordinary journey back in time at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum to the 1915 Panama-California Exposition with the Centennial Railway Garden featuring a miniature Balboa Park. The exhibition highlights the historic Class 1 Street car and seven iconic features including the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and the California Tower

  • The Museum galleries are open for discovery. Visit the Maya, Egypt, and Kumeyaay collections, explore Footsteps through Time and Race: Are We So Different, along with interactive exhibits on Monsters! and Beer. 

    Spread peace and healing by adding to the communal Peace Tree in the rotunda. The Naka Shin intertribal organization will be performing traditional singing and dancing on the west side of the building (Fri. 5-8pm; Sat. 4-8pm)

    Instruments of Torture and the California Tower will be closed during December Nights, but open during the day for regular admission. 

  • Friday December 4: Balboa Park Railroad will be open from 4:00PM to 9:00PM (cost is $3 per rider)                  
    Skyfari Aerial Tram will be open from 5:30PM to 10:00pm (cost is $4 per rider round trip)

    Saturday December 5: Balboa Park Railroad will be open from 11:00AM to 9:00PM (cost is $3 per rider)                  
    Skyfari Aerial Tram will be open from 5:30PM to 10:00pm (cost is $4 per rider round trip)

    The Zoo will be open during the day with regular admission. The Zoo will not be open during the evenings of December Nights.

  • Visit with artists and shop for locally made art. 
    Music throughout the event
    Santa will be on hand 5:00-10:00pm both nights for photos (A small donation is requested to help fund Spanish Village education programs.)

  • The Old Globe and the Globe Guilders host photos with The Grinch, tours of The Globe Theatre from 5-10pm, and costume display open after 7pm on Saturday. 

    See the Whoville Town set on stage and see a specially designed costume display from The Globe archives.

  • The Prado Restaurant and Lounge will be open for no-reservation dining during normal business hours. The Courtyard will have a cash bar and live music
    Prado Pub in the Plaza de Panama: Cocktail area in the Plaza serves burgers, fries, fish and chips, hot chocolate, and offers an over-21 cocktail and beer garden. 

  • Open 5-9pm both nights. Closed during the day 12/4 & 12/5.

    The Art of Music exhibit will be closed.

  • The Veterans Museum will be closed

  • The San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT) offers four major exhibitions for the public to enjoy during December Nights: Coast to Cactus in Southern California (NEW), Fossil Mysteries, Skulls, and Water: A California Story. Visitors can also see Butterflies and Insects, a photography exhibition, and two exciting 3D films* in the giant screen theater. Indulge in food and beverages from the Dino Café while listening to live holiday music performed by the Pomerado Brass Quintet from 5 to 6:30 PM and the TubaFours from 6:45 to 8:45 PM.

    Oh and don’t forget to pick up some authentic, locally-sourced mistletoe, sold by the Museum’s Canyoneers!

    *3D films are not included with free admission during December Nights. Each 3D film is $5 per person.
    Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed will be closed during December Nights (5-9pm) but will be open during the day (regular admission prices during daytime hours). 

  • Masterworks in the collection cover 700 years of history and range from 14th century altarpieces through 18th century portraits and landscapes to 19th century still lifes. The foyer features the Timken’s annual holiday tree with the Schlappi Collection of Hord and Schlappi ornaments.

  • Ornaments, holiday cards, nativities, and music from around the world. 

    Open 10am-11pm both days